LETTER FROM SUVARNABHUMI
Coping with the nightmare of noise
Published in Nation on Oct 15, 2006
Noble Park Village Tambon Bang Phli Yai Bang Phli District Samut Prakan
Once again I woke with a start in the middle of the night because of the ear-splitting engine sound from an aircraft over my house. It was as if the plane was going to crash into our once tranquil home.
I have not had an uninterrupted night of rest at home since September 28, the day Thailand received huge media coverage for the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport, which boasts the world's largest passenger terminal and the world's tallest control tower. (I am all too familiar with such bragging; many Thais are so eager to boast they care little about the utility aspects.)
But while many Thais feel proud about the country's new airport, I have woken up to the grim fact that my peaceful life is a thing of the past. Like many other people in my neighbourhood, thundering aircraft engines have been haunting us most of the time.
I watched the clock and found that the deafening sound came every five minutes.
Actually, my family moved in to the Noble Park Village less than two years ago because we appreciated its tranquil environment. With the unbearable noise pollution from the Suvarnabhumi Airport, we are now thinking hard about whether we need to relocate again.
The noise pollution weighs heavily on my heart because my five-year-old daughter, Pinwad, has been adversely affected. From my observation, she no longer gets proper sleep anymore.
Moreover, her school is close by and also suffers from the noise pollution. (One of the main reasons behind our family's decision to move into this development was that it is near my daughter's school, meaning she would no longer have to get exhausted from so much time travelling between school and home.) When I drop my daughter off at school in the morning, I find the thunderous sound from the passing planes unbearable. How can the students cope with this noise throughout the day?
When I raised the issue with my daughter, she insisted that she would not change her school. She does not listen no matter how hard I try to explain to her that the loud noise is not good for us, especially for her because her brain is still developing at this age.
I have also turned to neighbours to complain about the noise pollution. Aporn Somprasertsuk, whose daughter is studying at the same school as Pinwad, said her family was going to move out and she would enrol her daughter at another school.
"We can't sleep at night. How can we bear with it? No. We work so hard during the day," Aporn said. "When we come home, we want to take rest and relax. But we can't do that here any more. The tranquillity is gone. Life is now full of stress. On some nights, I need to read till late at night hoping to fall asleep."
As I listened, my heart sank.
Aporn said her daughter now moved restlessly in her sleep.
"We are accustomed to a peaceful life. The noise here is too much to bear," she said.
Another neighbour said her one-month-old baby slept well but she worried whether the deafening sound would affect the child in some unnoticeable way.
She said she chose to keep her window open at night because she believes natural air is better than air-conditioning.
I myself would not dare to open the windows because even with them closed the noise pollution is already too much.
Some people told me that I would soon get used to the noise. Perhaps, I thought to myself. But now I have told myself that I will just not be resigned to such a fate.
To many neighbours and myself, the sound has become increasingly deafening. Sometimes we can't help suspect that some pilots might be ignoring rules about flying over residential areas.
As of now, we plan to contact the legal entity that manages our village. We hope to discuss the problem and find solutions. We know a large number of affected people feel the same way.
On Tuesday night, I watched the "Theung Look Theung Khon" debate show on TV, which focused on noise pollution caused by Suvarnabhumi. From what I heard, my understanding is that Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT) will compensate affected residents for relocation if their area has noise levels of over 75 decibels on average each day. The compensation will be paid based on the estimated value of their present home.
For areas where the noise level averages less than 75 decibels, the AOT is going to hand out compensation for home improvements to reduce the noise, such as installing glass windows or air-conditioners.
The main condition for the compensation is that the noise level must have risen by more than 10 decibels following the opening of the new airport.
I have no idea how much the noise level has increased in my village. But from what I know, since the opening of the airport the noise pollution has subjected me to sleepless nights and has left me feeling tired at the start of my day. I have seen my daughter wake up with a start during the night. My mind feels stressed.
Really, I would like to invite AOT executives to spend a night or two at my home so that they can empathise with us.
Coping with the Nightmare of Noise. One can only sympathise deeply with Somroutai Sapsomboon whose family suffers the abominable noise of aircraft in the vicinity of Suvarnabhumi airport (Nation, 15th October 2006). It is most unlikely that her invitation to AOT officials to spend a night in her home will either gain their notice or lead to a solution. Only mass legal action, led by KingMongut’s Institute of Technology, is likely to focus attention on the problem.
Meanwhile I presume to note the lesser problem of noise within the airport building and in its vicinity. On Thursday last I made some spot measurements at the entrance to and within the terminal. I am pleased to report that the noise levels were less than in Don Muang, registering an average of 73 decibels.While this is not grossly excessive it is still too loud for comfort and improvements are required. The factors which are limiting the noise at present are the high ceiling area which is not reflecting the sound down, the absence of a public announcement system, of useless radio and television outputs. Most of the noise appears to originate from high spirited and vociferous passengers. May I propose that the airport authorities abstain from any measure which would increase the present level of noise and set a target of reducing the average noise level by an easily achievable one decibel per year. This is a barely noticeable improvement, but in three years will reduce the noise power in the terminal by a factor of two! I would propose in particular:
1. Do not install the miserable audio loudspeakers which were everywhere in Don Muang, nor the useless giant LCD videodisplays. No doubt if allowed to do so the noisemakers of Don Muang will attempt to replicate the same cacophony as before.
2. Do not allow the open sided cafes and restaurants to broadcast music. At present one is already doing so and others will follow. The result will be the noise jungle of a BTS station.
3. Stop the use of piercing whistles by those directing traffic at the terminal building, the use of visible hand signals is sufficient.
4. Attention to points 2 and 3 will probably reduce the current noise level by the one decibel proposed as an annual goal. To plan further noise reduction, have made a detailed noise map of the entire terminal and its vicinity so that the areas of excessive noise can be identified and the sources suppressed.
None of these measures involve expense beyond the normal administration of the terminal. The entire environmental budget can instead be directed to solving the far greater problems of environmental degradation in Ladkrabang
People who Love Quiet Club